India widens crackdown on gang-rape protests

Fresh clashes in Indian capital as authorities impose ban on demonstrations in central areas of New Delhi.

Police have clashed with hundreds of protesters for the second straight day in the Indian capital New Delhi, after earlier imposing a ban on mass demonstrations against the gang rape of a medical student in the capital last weekend.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon, and used batons to disperse the demonstrators gathered in central areas of the city on Sunday. Despite the police’s efforts, however, the crowd at Delhi’s landmark India Gate monument swelled into the thousands, witnesses said.

Al Jazeera speaks with Kiran Bedi, a female former police officer

Scuffles occurred between protesters and police near government buildings, with demonstrators shouting slogans against the authorities and throwing stones and bottles at their barricades. Angry protesters later overturned a vehicle and seized police vans.

At least 30 people, including several policemen, have been treated for injuries at a nearby hospital, officials said.

Areas close to the president’s residence and the parliament had earlier been declared off-limits to protesters.

Early on Sunday morning, police had cordoned off all routes leading to landmark government buildings, including metro stations. 

“Security has been tightened in the heart of New Delhi, with police in riot gear in every area of possible demonstration. Section 144, a criminal code that prohibits assembly of more than five people, has been imposed,” reported Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha in New Delhi.

“The situation turned quite ugly [on Saturday] after protesters clashed with police, and the police retaliated with water cannon and tear gas.”

Suspects arrested

A delegation of protesters met Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress party, to convey their demands.

Some female protesters were injured after the police charged them when they tried to approach a key federal government building near India Gate on Saturday.

The gang rape in New Delhi has sparked public outrage across India, bringing thousands of people onto city streets. Marches, demonstrations and candlelight vigils have spread during the last week.

Six drunk men were joyriding in a bus when they picked up a physiotherapy student and her 28-year-old male companion last Sunday. They took turns raping her before throwing the pair off the speeding vehicle. During her ordeal the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.

She remains in critical condition on respiratory support, but is responding to treatment, doctors said on Sunday.

Five of the suspects in the case were arrested soon after the crime and a sixth was caught on Friday, the Press Trust of India reported.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures.

Journalist shot dead

Meanwhile, in a separate incident at a rally against the sexual assault of a film actress in the country’s northeast on Sunday, a television journalist was shot dead by police.

The 36-year-old man, who worked for the Doordarshan network, was killed in Imphal, capital of Manipur state, after police opened fire on the rally, police spokesperson A Singh told the AFP news agency.

Police fired on protesters when they attempted to torch a police bus.

The area has been observing a general strike against the alleged molestation of the actress by local political party workers.